From Russia with Loveless
Lost boy is the focus of this quiet, unpretentious and moving tale
“Lovelessness,” says one of the characters in Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev’s new film. “You cannot live in that state.”
It’s delivered one adult to another, but it’s a lesson not lost on 12-year-old Alyosha (Matvey Novikov). After the kid overhears his parents arguing over which one will have to take him after their divorce, he heads out to school the next morning — and doesn’t come back.
Parents Zhenya and Boris aren’t quick to notice him missing. Each is on a date that first night, so it’s already more than 24 hours later when they realize he’s gone. Snapping into action, they hurl recriminations at each other.
Loveless is focused in its critique of human nature; Zhenya continues to nurse a grudge over a painful delivery of her son (“He almost tore me apart!”), while she and Boris compete to see who can be more cruel to the other in this time of crisis. A visit to Zhenya’s mother to see if the boy wound up at her house finds her similarly lacking in parental affection.
Two hours is a lot of movie time to spend looking for a missing kid, although we do learn much about the way such cases are handled in Russia.
A no-nonsense cop tells Zhenya they simply don’t have the resources to chase runaways, while a volunteer group has clearly had a frightening amount of practice at this type of thing. They interview neighbours, comb the woods, call the hospitals, search buildings and put up posters. Never do we get a hint that anything is bringing them closer to a solution.
Meanwhile, the parents do all the right things but seem oddly unmoved by it all.
Not so the director, whose quiet, unshowy photography hints at a kind of environmental sadness at the circumstances. The camera may linger in a doorway or pause to gaze out a window, where the winter is coming on hard. The boy may or may not be found, but the film already seems to be telling us: Don’t get your hopes up. email@example.com
When 12-year-old Alyosha, played by Matvey Novikov, disappears, his divorcing parents seem unmoved in Loveless, a compelling tale from Russia.